Are biodegradable wipes environmentally friendly?
21/2/23, 4:00 am
In recent years, the word ‘biodegradable’ is often seen on some products that we buy, such as wipes and straws. But what does it actually mean and are biodegradable wipes environmentally friendly?
What does biodegradable mean?
Biodegradable refers to substances that will break down rapidly and safely into largely harmless compounds. But how does one identify what makes a substance biodegradable?
A substance that is plant-based, natural mineral-based, or animal-based product is normally biodegradable. However, these substances will break down at different rates depending on the materials used and how processed are the materials.
According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), biodegradables are substances that go through degradation resulting from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as algae, bacteria, and fungi.
Moreover, biodegradable products are broken down faster than non-biodegradables products like plastic. Consumers often assumed that biodegradable products are made largely from plants, however, they can be made from boxes, bags, papers, and other materials that have the ability to steadily break down until they are able to be consumed on a microscopic level.
What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable?
Biodegradable and compostable are two words that are frequently used interchangeably when talking about environmentally friendly products. But there’s a sizeable difference between these two terms.
For instance, compostable refers to a substance that is capable of breaking down into natural elements in a compost environment. As it is broken down into its natural elements, it causes no harm to the environment, which makes it environmentally friendly. The breakdown process normally takes about 90 days.
Moreover, according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Compostables are substances that go through degradation by biological processes during composting to yield water, CO2, biomass, and inorganic compounds at a rate consistent with other compostable materials and leave no toxic residue or visible distinguishable.
What is the difference?
Both terms are similar and it is understandable why consumers are confused but there’s a distinctive difference. For instance, not all biodegradable material is compostable but all compostable material is biodegradable.
Biodegradable materials break down, return to nature, and can vanish entirely; however, metal residue may occasionally be left behind. On the contrary, compostable materials break down and produce humus, which is a dark, organic matter that is filled with nutrients and is beneficial for plants.
Thus, both biodegradable and compostable products can break down and vanish entirely, however, only compostable products are able to produce essential nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of plants.
What are biodegradable wipes made of?
Biodegradable wipes are made of solely natural ingredients such as Viscose, Bamboo, Cotton, Wood Pulp, Bamboo, or a mixture of these plant-based materials. Using these plant-based materials that are naturally occurring from the environment ensures that they will break down into the soil when they are disposed of correctly. To find the best way to dispose of biodegradable wipes, always refer to the pack instructions.
How long does it take biodegradable wipes to decompose?
Biodegradation is a naturally occurring process that can take as little as a few weeks to as long as multiple centuries. For instance, the biodegradability and composability of biodegradable wipes are confirmed after 45 days compared to plastic which will take 500 years or more to biodegrade.
There are a lot of environmental factors that affect the rate of biodegradation. Some of these factors are temperature, light, oxygen levels, and chemicals in the environment. Hence, it is important to dispose of biodegradable wipes in the right environment to ensure the biodegradability and composability of the wipes are at optimum.
Reduction of Carbon Footprints
Most conventional wipes contain plastic (normally polyester fibres). Plastic is a carbon-intensive material and produces a lot of greenhouse gases. It also produces more emissions than biodegradable wipes, as it takes multiple centuries to degrade.
Biodegradable wipes are a great alternative to conventional wipes, as they do not contain plastic and break down faster, reducing the greenhouse gases produced and lessening carbon footprints on mother earth.
Kleen-Pak’s sustainability efforts
Being a responsible organisation and a sustainability champion, Kleen-Pak commits to bringing positive changes into the world by adopting a holistic concept of biodegradable wet wipes - EcoKleen.
EcoKleen focuses on sustainability and has 4 Pillars:
EcoSoft – 100% Biodegradable & Compostable materials harvested from sustainable resources.
Ecoflex – Reducing plastics content by using Mono-Plastic Laminate & recycling.
EcoLiq – Earth Friendly Formulation – Purified water, Food grade ingredients, and free from harsh chemicals.
EcoPack – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle by reducing plastic lids with flip labels or reusable plastic lids to reseal subsequent packaging.
Find out more about EcoKleen
Translating concept into reality
With these 4 Pillars in mind and to address the problems associated with conventional wipes, Kleen-Pak has been producing wet wipes to front sustainable initiative and one of the notable examples is NuFresh Anti-Bacterial Wipes. These wipes went through rebranding and given an upgrade by changing non-woven to 100% biodegradable & composable and come in environmentally-friendly packaging.
These wipes are made with 100% plant-derived material, Viscose, that is 100% Biodegradable and Compostable. It also uses Mono-Plastic Laminate for its packaging, reducing the plastic content by more than 25% compared to conventional Multi-Plastic Laminate.
NuFresh Anti-Bacterial Wipes are also harvested from sustainable resources and are FSC-labelled certified. The FSC label is the world’s most trusted mark for sustainable forestry.
Find out more about our NuFresh Anti-Bacterial Wipes
Biodegradable and Compostable wipes are great alternatives for the environment as they are made of solely natural ingredients and break down much faster in the right environment than conventional wipes, reducing unnecessary waste and carbon footprint on our planet. While they may not be the best solution, they are unquestionably the better choice than conventional wipes that contain plastic, which takes multiple centuries to biodegrade.
ASTM: American Society for Testing and Materials
Dettol: Science Explainers: The journey of a biodegradable wipe
MyPura: Plastic wipes have a bigger carbon footprint than Pura Wipes – here's why https://mypura.com/blogs/news/plastic-wipes-have-a-bigger-carbon-footprint-than-pura-wipes-here-s-why
Naturepath: What’s the difference: Biodegradable and Compostable?
Nice 'N CLEAN®: Biodegradable wipes really biodegradable?